Almost 5 years ago I’d just left my job supporting survivors of trafficking and modern slavery where I routinely saw mothers birthing alone in hospital. Shortly thereafter followed what we now know as Project MAMA which I developed with the encouragement and support from incredible people and organisations. Little did I know that over the next 5 years, Project MAMA would have supported over 150 mamas as they birth their babies, weathered a global pandemic and built a truly beautiful community of mamas in Bristol with parenthood, sorority and mutual support at its core.
More recently I’ve been growing another baby of my own – this time much more literal – and I will welcome my little one in Spring 2023. Through incubating this wee one of my own, I’ve experienced new depths of understanding of parental solidarity and mutual support being so vital during pregnancy. This unchartered and unknown terrain harbours both vulnerability and strength in unexpected and hidden places, and throws trauma into the mix. It’s entirely possible to feel destabilised, isolated and conflicted, all while battling waves of nausea, exhaustion and those savage hormonal surges.
But on the flipside to this raw and potent maternal vulnerability (and to borrow a cliché) the roots of maternal resilience are a strong thing indeed. At Project MAMA you’d be hard pushed not to find a volunteer who’s not witnessed the warrior-like transformation which so often takes place within the mamas we support within those who have arguably been disenfranchised the most.
Now more than ever I appreciate first hand how the feeling of solidarity and strength is vital to ensure a mama is well-held, listened to, valued, so she has the space to become the mama she can be. We have witnessed how mamas we support can count themselves amongst those routinely and systematically discarded by racist and xenophobic policies and procedures, unashamedly handed out by those who have a duty to protect those experiencing most vulnerability. As the political and environmental climate worsens and global politics displace an increased amount of people, we’ve seen how it is often mothers who fare worse. That’s why supportive units such as ours and an increasing amount of perinatal support projects around the country, are a really simple step to connection, healing and growth.
What continues to blow my mind about those accessing Project MAMA has been the sorority and resilience of mamas in spite of our government-pedalled hostility. Further still, the wellspring of untapped strength in others really is a thing to behold and something I’ve even surprised myself with as my belly has grown and my mind expanded.
Taking a leaf out of the book of many of those we’ve supported in becoming nurturing mamas themselves, I’ve made my own decision to step down as CEO of Project MAMA, to huddle in and get cosy with my own parenting journey and really lean in to all that brings up. As such, the project will continue to survive and thrive as it grows in unexpected and wonderful ways, just like parenting. It’s sometimes taken grit and determination and, occasionally, some unexpected curve-balls rather like birth itself, to raise the Project MAMA baby, but coming into its 5th year, it’s now time for a new direction. It’s been a real privilege to work alongside so many incredible volunteers, mamas and team members alike and the matresance I’ve witnessed has no doubt stands me in excellent stead as I birth my own small human.
In love and solidarity,